Rioja offers outstanding quality matured red wines at a fraction of the price of other famed regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Napa. Why? The wines are approachable upon release as specific aging requirements are mandated for all producers within the region, adding complexity from savory notes of tobacco, leather, and umami, along with red cherry and strawberry. A wine of Reserva level must have been aged for a minimum of one year in barrel and two years in bottle. In almost any other prized growing region, a wine released with this amount of age would be priced at a premium, but as this is the practice in Rioja, we all benefit from the extra time the winery has spent cellaring wines before release. Contino routinely exceeds the minimums, and in this case the wine spent two years in barrel and then an additional two years in bottle.
Rioja is the name of the region and the wine, and the reds are traditionally a blend of Tempranillo with support from varieties such as Graciano, Mazuelo, and Garnacha. In the 2009 Contino Rioja Reserva, the Tempranillo brings red berry notes and sandy tannins, the Graciano adds finesse and perfume, Mazuelo contributes color, acidity, and backbone, and Garnacha adds a breath of texture and notes of baked strawberry. These varieties have married harmoniously and have mellowed during the maturation process to include notes of dried tobacco and fresh leather.
Modeled after the classified growths of Bordeaux, Contino is the first single-vineyard estate and original “First Growth” of Rioja. Since its inaugural 1974 vintage, it has consistently produced one of the finest of all Rioja Reservas. The renowned Master of Wine Tim Atkin rated the beautiful eight-year-old 2009 vintage 94 points, describing it as “rich but not over-ripe,” and “typical of the full-bodied, yet structured style that Contino produces.” Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gushed that “the nose is unmistakably Rioja,” and lauded its “powerful, ripe” palate and “great balance between modernity and tradition.”